Last week, aptly Mental Health Awareness week I began a phased return back to work after 2 months off due to struggling with my mental health. Anxiety is something I’ve had for a long time, it’s hard for me to articulate how it feels and how it affects me. It’s more than just feeling anxious; Generalised Anxiety Disorder means you feel uncontrollable anxiety about many different things in everyday life. It can manifest in different ways, when I tell people I have an anxiety disorder I often have the response but you come across so calm and laid back! Just because something isn’t displayed doesn’t mean that it isn’t affecting the person on the inside. Most of the time I can manage my anxious feelings, or more often than not convince myself that I can. I have found the hard way that not noticing triggers can lead to other mental health problems such as depression, paranoia and panic attacks.
Anxiety disorder makes you your own worst enemy, I knew I wasn’t well but continued to carry on as ‘normal’. Putting everyone and everything else before considering my own needs. This is when it starts to snowball and inevitably leads to a crash, I was no longer managing and needed help. When I eventually stopped, I realised how unwell I really was – accepting this was the hardest step. Battling through the conversations that you have with yourself in your head, anxiety isn’t your friend and lies to you. After several chats with my GP I eventually took time off which I was reluctant to do at first but once I did, I realised it was what I needed, I also take medication and have had CBT and counselling therapy. All of which I have had experience of before but still found it hard to tackle this time round. I am very lucky to have been able to get help very quickly with CBT and counselling through my workplace Employee Assistance Program, I had already received 5 weekly sessions before I was scheduled a telephone assessment appointment with NHS Depressions and Anxiety Service. I’m not in any way berating the NHS, I love the NHS but this demonstrates how under pressure these services are and some people cannot wait the 2 months+ for a referral I know had I of had to wait it would have had a detrimental effect on my already low mental health.
The disappointing thing about mental illness is that it can make you withdrawn and you lose interest in things that can help you. I was burnt out, very fatigued and found myself not spending time on any of my hobbies like running, reading and crafting as just functioning doing the bare minimum daily tasks were exhausting. I withdraw from social interactions which I find difficult anyway with social anxiety, even with people I know. I’m aware that sometimes this may come across as rude or maybe offish but on the inside I’m really struggling, having to make small talk terrifies me! After several sessions of CBT I began to feel the fog start to lift, it may have also been the medication start to kick in or a combination of the 2 and started look at the things I have enjoyed and start picking up my hobbies again.
I’ve had an idea of a project/potential business venture for some time, it’s been more of a dream really which has felt out of reach and unachievable. I was only thinking of the end result and my anxious brain was yet again telling me that it couldn’t be done, giving endless reasons as to why. The more I thought about it the more dejected I felt. My supportive husband encouraged me to find a way to make it happen and helped me scale back the idea. As a starting point I began learning how to create jewellery keepsakes which has led to the creation of Silver Elephant Studio. It’s very much in its infancy and will be a part-time project for me for the time being but it is helping me in my recovery in so many ways. I’m so happy to be making again, I love creating from scratch and who knows it maybe something I can grow into a full-time project one day. I hope that you can follow me and would appreciate support as I gradually bring the social media and website to life.
Links to what has helped me:
Aaron Gilles ‘How to Survive the world when its in your own head’ This guy gets it and puts it in to words what I struggle to say, I have read this book a few times – when I’m well and when I’ve been low and find comfort that it is understood and I’m not alone.
Bryony Gordon Such an inspirational writer and mental health advocate who has run the marathon for Heads Together, Co-founder of Mental Health Mates and author of The Wrong Knickers, Mad Girl, Eat Drink, Run and her latest book You got This.
The Bees Knees Journal My therapist advised me to keep a journal, I knew I would find it hard as I wouldn’t know what to write but then I came across the Bees Knees Journal. It has a template on each page and prompts to fill in, its beautifully illustrated to inspire creativity in filling or colouring in and acknowledge both joy and sadness and finding your Bees Knees Moments.
MIND The mental health charity, lots of accessable information and support for all things mental health.
Headspace Not something I use an awful lot and probably should use a lot more, mindfulness is a bit trial and error, finding what works for you. The guys voice doesn’t irritate me and if used at the right time can calm me so can be quite useful.